Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Social Media is your friend if you will make it so

Tom Foremki has some advice for marketing people and others who won't join Facebook, Twitter.
If it has to do with your job, then you need to join them. You have to be in them to know them.
I have to admit, I was shocked by his report. I thought that by now everyone in PR and marketing communcations had caught on that there was this thing called social media and it offers tremendous opportunities for engagement and tremendous risks for those who ignore it. I could understand that back in 2004 marketers had still not caught on to the importance of social media; but surely now people would understand. Even more puzzling is that Foremski operates out of Silicon Valley, where one would imagine social media adoption would be at its highest. Can it be that the Potomac area is ahead of Silicon Valley in this one respect?

As Foremski points out, you don't have to actually participate, you can just lurk. But understand, your competition understands the value of social media. We understand how, by the use carefully chosen key words, we can attract additional site traffic. We understand how we can use Facebook to highlight client news. We understand how to use Twitter to engage and build community.

More to the purpose your competition is familiar with the many tools of social media to analyze online coverstiaons.

Marketers and PR pros can no more ignore social media than they can ignore the news media. It is part of presenting our clients to the general public. Anyone still holding back should listen to For Immediate Release, the podcast by the celebrated duo of Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz, which talks about the intersection of public relations and social media.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Telling the world about Modern Monetary Theory

Mike Norman does not think that MMT advocates are doing a very good job at communicating the concept of fiat currency. He criticizes MMT advocates as being too wonky for the lay audience. I agree with him only in one respect. Nowhere on the Web is there a brief catchy definition of MMT. Here is one my friends and I put together, which will have to do until we come up with something better.
Modern Monetary Theory is a school of economics asserting that:
-- The currency itself is a simple public monopoly; -- Governments provision themselves by creating taxes that cause people to sell real goods and services to get the funds they need to pay their taxes, and then by purchasing the goods and services they desire with their otherwise worthless currencies;
-- Since the economy needs the government's money to pay its taxes, the value of the currency depends on the prices govt. pays when it spends;
-- For a given size of government, unemployment is the evidence that the government is either overtaxing the economy, or spending too little to compensate for any residual desire to save;
-- Governments with fiat currencies create money at will when they spend, and destroy money when taxes are paid, further indicating that taxes function to regulate the economy, and not to collect revenue per se; 
-- The currency is a governmental tool that in a democracy is created and maintained to promote public purpose, and to provide for the general welfare.
We know, this needs to be shorter. Our real problem is the problem of shifting public debate from an idea that, however obviously erroneous, has been implanted in the public mind for decades: that the federal budget bears any resemblance to a household budget. Shifting public opinion is a little like turning an ocean liner, it cannot be done quickly.

I had never heard of Modern Monetary Theory until the spring of 2010, when I atteneded the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter Conference; which was organized to counter a Pete Peterson anti-Social Security conference that was organized for the same day. As I recall, Warren Mosler opened the conference and just blew me away with his presentation on Modern Monetary Theory. It was like watching little Toto pulling back the curtain. When I found out that Mosler was running for the US Senate from Connecticut, I immediately offered my services and found my self managing his Senate campaign.

Thus I found myself in the position of having to explain MMT to hundreds of voters who were not interested in economic theory, but were interested in policies that could lead to economic recovery. I heard all the common Weimar inflation fear mongering, but the real problem was getting heard at all.

Warren Mosler's campaign was a turning point, and I am very proud of the role I played in it. We managed to catapult his ideas for economic prosperity into the mainstream, specifically his idea for a FICA holiday. Unfortunately it was only a tiny FICA holiday, which is why the recovery was so muted. Even more unfortunate, the FICA holiday has ended, withholding has gone up with its deleterious effect upon our economy.

Pete Peterson and his fellow deficit hysterics have been pouring money into his propoganda machine, buying politicians, think tanks, and even journalists to parrot his talking points. MMT is limited to a group of determined bloggers, mostly eonomists, trying to ge the word out.

So it is remarkable that we were able to catapult the idea of the Platinum Coin into the mass media, at least for a few weeks. Still, we need to do a better job of getting the word out. I am working on putting together a MMT talk show. Send word to if you would like to know more.

Edit -
There is a great discussion of this over at Mike Norman's blog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


At tonight's meeting of Net Squared there was a great deal of discussion about games. Both panelists and members of the audience seemed to think that games are a great way to cultivate your audience and engage your community. I had not previously considered the community aspect of games, but this is certainly something I will have to explore.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Clarissa Peterson talks about Content Strategy for Responsive Websites

Clarissa Peterson spoke to the January meeting of Web Content Mavens about building responsive websites. A responsive website is one that automatically adjusts the display to suit the device of the user, whether it be a common cell phone, or a giant screen desktop. Obviously this poses many challenges for web designers.

She opened her presentation by observing that "websites for mobile mostly suck". She further observed that "mobile web strategy is the same as web strategy, but without ignoring mobile," and that responsive web design is where we are going."

The Boston Globe one of the first responsive web sites, it easily adjusts the display to suit the user's device.

Adaptive technique is how you adapt content arrangement to display on different screen sizes.

Peterson observed that there are a lot of really bad responsive websites, going on to say that, "it's not like we nailed web design before we tried responsive design."

Peterson suggested that designers keep in mind the context in which people are viewing information and discard the idea that people only use mobile for activities on the run. She went on to point out that there is no mobile web, there is only one web, which we view in different ways.

Not all cell phones are smart phones, Peterson pointed out that you have to accommodate those users. (As someone who has an old fashioned cell phone, this was a welcome observation. My hosting company, Hostway, in most ways an excellent hosting service, has a webmail system that is virtually unusable with my cell phone.) Peterson said that 17% cell phone users browse the web on their phones, so it is an error to assume that people are using their computers. Indeed, the demarcations between cell phone/tablet/laptop are becoming increasingly blurred.

Peterson observed that the beauty of the web is openness, you want to be available to everyone. Therefore you need content parity, users of cell phones must be able to access your website's content, just as a computer user would be able to view it. She said Consumer Reports is an example of a website that fails to make all of its content available to cell phone users, specifically the recall information is not available to cell phone users.

At this point there were several questions about 508 requirements. Peterson repeated her view that web designers must make their sites available to all, without regard to device or the special needs of the user.

When asked about clients who do not wish to pay for responsive sites, Peterson urged designers to educate their clients about the necessity of responsive design. Audience members agreed that static sites would just have to be completely rebuilt as responsive sites two years down the road.

Continuing to emphasize the need to design for all users, Peterson reminded her audience that iPhones do not read flash, and therefore it was necessary to give iPhone users a non-flash alternative to view content.

Peterson offered examples of good responsive websites:
World Wildlife Fund
Emeril's New Orleans - rare example of good restaurant responsive site
William and Mary University
Department Homeland Security

The Rock Creek Group was gracious enough to offer a site for the meeting plus refreshments. Web Content Mavens is a group of web designers. If your company is seeking a way to reach out to this community, sponsoring a meeting or offering hospitality would be an economical way to do so.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Why PR workers keep doing those annoying things

Roy Greenslade writes about PR tactics that are annoying and counterproductive. Why do we keep doing these things?
And then there are emails telling me that X is flying into London - someone I've never heard of from a company I've never heard of - and offering me an exclusive opportunity to interview him or her. Does this ever work?
I have done this, and yes, it does work occasionally. Even though you may never have heard of my client, your readers would be interested. This is because my client has a product or service that your readers are interested in, even though they have not heard of my client. I know this because I have read enough of your work to be conversant with the interests of your audience. This is precisely the process that transforms nobodies into somebodies and, frankly, why I was hired.

I still make telephone calls, because I rarely place a story without telephone work. The day I can place a story without a telephone call is the day I stop making calls. Email is far more time efficient.

As for the rest of it, offering an exclusive when it isn't really an exclusive is appalling PR malpractice, and I am very sorry to hear that people are doing this. When I offer exclusives, I usually put a time limit on it, as in, "This is an exclusive, let me know by close of business by tomorrow if you want it." Obviously if a reporter is not interested in the story I will start sending it around. As for jargon and buzzwords, we all struggle with them, which is why IABC created this very amusing video: